On this unusual album, pianist Paul Bley's 1964 trio (with bassist Gary Peacock and drummer Paul Motian) is joined by tenor-saxophonist John Gilmore during his brief hiatus from Sun Ra's Arkestra. Unissued at the time (five of the eight numbers made their debut on Bley's IAI label), the music is explorative but not as free as one might expect. Best-known among the six Carla Bley originals (which are joined by Paul's "Turns") is the lyrical "Ida Lupino" which is heard in two versions. The music overall is quite stimulating and a bit offbeat, a reflection of Paul Bley's adventurous spirit.
Reissued on CD by the Black Saint/Soul Note labels, this entry from Paul Bley's IAI label features fairly free playing from an unusual trio comprised of Lee Konitz (on alto and soprano), keyboardist Bley and Bill Connors on electric and acoustic guitars. Actually, due to the free nature of the pieces, the music is less exciting than one might hope. Everyone takes chances in their solos but several of the pieces wander on much too long. Overall this session does not reach the heights one might expect from these great players.
Pianist and composer Paul Bley has been making records now for more than 50 years. His solo recordings encompass a great deal of his generous catalog. Bley has studied so many different aspects of jazz, and improvisational music both American and European, that these recordings always offer a revealing, no-holds-barred glimpse of where he's at as a musician at any given time. About Time, released on the Montreal label Justin Time, contains just two pieces: the 33-plus-minute title track and the Sonny Rollins tune "Pent-Up House," which lasts another ten. They reveal the entire range of Bley's considerable gifts as a pianist and improviser.
When this album was released in 1975 by Paul Bley's Improvising Artists label, the seven selections had been previously unheard. The five pieces from Mar. 9, 1964 (which feature pianist Bley, tenor-saxophonist John Gilmore, bassist Gary Peacock and drummer Paul Motian) were later released in a more complete form on the Savoy LP Turns. This was a unique onetime encounter between the innovative Bley (whose lyrical approach to free form improvising was quite different than that used by the high-energy players of the time) and Sun Ra's longtime tenor John Gilmore; "Ida Lupino" is the most memorable of these tracks. In addition there are a couple of trio performances ("Mr. Joy" and "Kid Dynamite") from a May 10, 1964 concert with bassist Peacock and drummer Billy Elgart that have not been released elsewhere. Very interesting if not quite essential music.
The mid-'80s trios for Steeplechase mark a consistent high point in Bley's now capacious output. …It's only really on Indian Summer that one feels the chemistry is just right. This is one of the pianist's periodic blues-based programmes. Engineered by Kazunori Sigiyama, who's responsible for DIW's output, it registers brightly, essential for music which is as softly pitched as much of this is. The high points are Bley's own "Blue Waltz" and an ironic "The More I See You," in which he works through variations in much the same way as he had on Caravan Suite for the same label, reconstructing the melodies rather than simply going through the changes. It's a fine record by any standards, but it stands out prominently among the later trios.
Ballantyne is a bright new Canadian piano star. He gets a good sound from the instrument and plays just as much or as little as he needs to get his point across. Nowhere is this better illustrated than on Question, an exploration that discovers all of the melodyХs most telling points. On Alternative Vision and Polka Dots he takes a more aggressive stance as befits an amiable piano and drum duel. It is the former that shows off his chops but it is the latter that demonstrates his natural way with a tune.
Can it be a coincidence that this CD, subtitled "Inspiration from Gregorian Chant," was recorded right around the time that chant music was reaching its improbable peak on the album charts? In any case, this enjoyable, offbeat trio album featuring the unusual combination of Bley's piano, David Eyges' electric cello and Bruce Ditmas' drums seems to have very little to do with Gregorian chant per se. Indeed, such numbers as "Wisecracks" and "Loose Change" are definitely based on the blues, "Decompose" has an M-base funk foundation, and "Funhouse" is a nasty, down-home bit of grooving that eventually becomes engulfed in a swirling maelstrom (so this is from whom Keith Jarrett may have picked up some of his group concepts).
Fully 35 years after Open, to Love, Paul Bley's seminal solo piano recording for ECM (which stands as a watermark both in his own career and in the history of the label – i.e., unconsciously aiding Manfred Eicher in establishing its "sound"), the pianist returns to the label for another go at it on Solo in Mondsee. Recorded in Mondsee, Austria, in 2001, and not issued until Bley's 75th year, these numbered "Mondsee Variations" were played on a Bösendorfer Imperial grand piano, an instrument that is, like its player, in a class of its own. Bley moves through ten improvisations lasting between two and just under nine minutes each.
The second ESP issue from the Paul Bley Trio is a contrast as dramatic as rain against sunshine. The earlier album, Barrage, recorded in October of 1964, was full of harsh, diffident extrapolations of sound and fury, perhaps because of its sidemen; Marshall Allen and Dewey Johnson on saxophone and trumpet, respectively, were on loan from Sun Ra and joined Eddie Gomez and Milford Graves. Indeed, the music there felt like one long struggle to survive. On this date, recorded over a year later and released in 1966, Bley's sidemen are two more like-minded experimentalists, drummer Barry Altschul and bassist Steve Swallow.